Amid Kashmir anxiety, Chinese Premier to visit India

October 26th, 2010 - 8:14 pm ICT by IANS  

David Cameron By Manish Chand
New Delhi, Oct 26 (IANS) With Beijing’s activism on Kashmir causing much concern in New Delhi, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao may come to India on an official visit as early as December that will seek to iron out a host of irritants and dispel the impression of rivalry among rising Asian powers.

“Efforts are on to have the Chinese premier’s visit in December. Dates are being negotiated,” well-placed sources told IANS, adding that if mutually satisfactory dates can’t be agreed, then Wen’s visit could take place early next year.

December promises to be an action-packed month for Indian diplomacy that includes visits by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

If the Chinese premier visits New Delhi in December, it will be the first time India will be hosting heads of state/government of all five permanent members of the UN Security Council (US, Russia, China, Britain and France) in the same year.

India hosted British Prime Minister David Cameron in July. US President Barack Obama will be paying a state visit to India Nov 6-9. Sarkozy and Medvedev are expected in India in December.

A slew of preparatory meetings have been planned, with a view to firming up a substantive agenda for the visit of the Chinese premier to New Delhi that could serve as the high point in the 60th year of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and China.

The two sides will flag off their respective areas of concern when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets Wen on the sidelines of India-ASEAN summit in Hanoi over the coming weekend.

The Manmohan-Wen meeting will be followed by that of the visit of Zhou Yongkang, one of the most senior members of China’s powerful Politburo, to Delhi next week. Zhou is expected to call on Manmohan Singh and meet External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

The two sides are also likely to hold their 14th round of boundary talks next month in a bid to impart a momentum to the negotiations that haven’t made much headway, specially with Beijing’s increased hawkishness over Arunachal Pradesh.

The boundary talks, led by National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and China’s State Councillor Dai Bingguo, will also provide an opportunity for two senior officials to prepare the agenda for the Manmohan-Wen talks in New Delhi.

Wen last visited India in April 2005 that led to the finalisation of guiding principles and political parameters for the resolution of the boundary dispute between the countries.

During all these meetings, Indian leaders are expected to convey New Delhi’s concerns over Beijing’s shifting stance over Jammu and Kashmir, a sensitive issue over which it maintained neutrality for decades till it started issuing stapled visas to residents of Jammu and Kashmir a couple if years ago.

Beijing tested New Delhi’s restraint when it denied visa to a senior Army general on grounds that his command included Jammu and Kashmir, a provocative tactic that led to India putting on hold defence exercises with China.

India has already made it clear to China that the defence exchanges will remain on “pause” till Beijing reverts to its neutral position on Jammu and Kashmir.

India will also air its concerns over China’s infrastructure investment in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in areas ranging from power to highways.

The two meetings will be “a test case” in arresting the drift in ties and set the agenda for the visit of the Chinese premier to New Delhi, Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert at Jawaharlal Nehru University told IANS. Deescalating rising tensions over Kashmir hold the key to improved relations, said Kondapalli.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at manish.c@ians.in)

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